I recently decided that if I am ever narcissistic enough to write an autobiography, the title of the book (soon to be a major motion picture) will be “It Sucked to be Me!” Sure, that sounds pretty awful, almost as if I led a life of deprivation and pain. Nothing could be further from the truth, though - the reason for that title is the never-ending string of awkward coincidence that has been the very hallmark of my personal history. A recent example was just a few days ago when I performed my monthly weed-whacking around the periphery of my house. I’m sloppy at it, to be honest, and I have done a lot of damage to innocent pieces of vinyl siding and plastic fence posts. This time around I managed to get the string of the trimmer all tangled up in the cables and such that feed the air conditioner. Two hours later on that hot & humid Sunday afternoon, my wife pointed out that it was getting mighty toasty in the house, the cause of which was a non-functioning air conditioner. Hmmm, what (read: “who?”) could have caused that?
This is where the awkward coincidence comes in: the failure of the AC had absolutely nothing to do with the weed whacking. That wasn’t discovered until the next day, though, so I got to spend 12 hours in “The Blame Zone.”
Why does this matter?? Well, it doesn’t. At least not directly. After all, we’re here to talk about the Ultimate Fishing Simulator, right? Yes. Yes we are. But because we’re talking about a simulator, parallels to real life are pertinent. Which begs the following question: what is your reviewer’s personal background when it comes to fishing? Well, I’m glad you asked, even if it was just rhetorical license on my part.
My first experience with fishing occurred roughly half a century ago, back when I was only six or seven years old. It was very much an introduction of the classical variety: a cheap Zebco reel, a kid-sized pole, a bobber, and a hook for a worm to ride on. On my very first cast, the bait hit the water and the bobber immediately sunk. Just my luck - a defective bobber! I reeled it in, only to find the first fish that I ever caught. And for a good number of years, that little Bluegill was the only fish I caught. As an aside, that little jerk of a fish drew blood when it speared me in the palm with its dorsal spikes, leading to a fifty year history of me never wanting to touch a fish again. Which brings us to the here and now.
While I had periodic opportunities to fish throughout the years, and actually managed to catch a good-sized bass at one point, I never pursued the hobby with any kind of regularity until a few months ago when the initial frenzy of early retirement was starting to taper off and I was forced to find some new and interesting pastimes. My history with golf is long and painful, so that was out. Gardening equates to work (see also: weed whacking), stamp collecting in the era of email and IM seems pointless, and I’m not ready for Bingo. Fishing was the obvious choice.
After five months of effort, I have caught four fish, and two of those hardly count because they were accidental snags. That’s kind of like accidentally sinking a ball when playing pool: yeah, you scored, but it was just blind luck. The third was a fingerling bass and was so small that I didn’t even know it was on the hook until I reeled in for another try. The fourth was a bluegill. I got a friend to remove it from the hook.
About a month ago, I discovered simulated fishing in the last place I would have expected it: Far Cry 5. FC5, for the unaware, is an open-world game that allows you to almost completely ignore the storyline of the actual game in favor of things you would rather do in the vast and complex world. For me, that was fishing. It was fun for awhile, but the challenge of it was not in the catching of the fish. If you can’t catch a fish in five seconds in Far Cry 5, it can only be because you’re casting with your back to the water. That said, the extremely dangerous FC5 world itself provides plenty of other challenges - the fact that you’re blissfully ignoring your surroundings while fishing is a recipe for getting shot to death. Or worse. Bears, coyotes, wolves, and even turkeys are out to get you too.
Fortunately, just as I was starting to hope for a somewhat more realistic sim, along came the Ultimate Fishing Simulator. While it shares a lot of the same types of fishing mechanics (casting, setting the hook, reeling in, etc.) with FC5, the challenges provided by the UFS are more in line with those of real world fishing. There are also many, many more types of fishing techniques, equipment, lures, baits, and other fishing-related items in the simulator, some of which are actual real world brands. That’s all great stuff to have, of course, but the meat of the game (so to speak) is the catching of fish. One would (quite fairly) expect it to be more in line with the realities of fishing, a couple of which are long periods of inactivity and dealing with outdoor weather.
In these two cases, I almost immediately categorized the UFS as being both very realistic and very unrealistic. Being a snap decision unsupported by more recent experiences, don’t put too much credence behind those findings. The first, the realism, was determined after more than four hours of fishing wherein I caught precisely zero fish. That comported perfectly with my own actual experience. I could have gone another four hours without a nibble and still felt that to be an uncanny reflection of my personal reality. The starkly unrealistic point was when I was standing on the side of a lake futilely lobbing bait/lures into the water, with only the benefit of light casting-arm calisthenics to show for it, when it started to rain. The unrealistic part of that was not the rain - it was when I did not grab my stuff and run for the car.
At some point between the 4th and 5th unsuccessful hours, I finally broke down and did some research. The specific type of research I did is commonly referred to as “RTFM.” It turned out that I was doing everything right when it came to building out a fishing rig suitable for the type of fish I could see tauntingly swimming right past my lure, but I was missing the boat (so to speak) on reeling in the line. The problem was that I wasn’t using one of the five defined reeling methods; just randomly reeling and jerking the line won’t cut it. It is also possible that I was getting nibbles all that time, but was simply too ignorant to recognize them.
This is partially the fault of my experience in FC5 fishing, which is very demonstrative with regards to the activity of the fish. There’s no missing the fact that you have hooked one. It’s even very easy to see the fish approaching the bait. The UFS is far more subtle, and you really have to keep a very close eye on the line tension indicator to notice that a fish is interested in taking the bait. This lack of feedback is mostly a limitation inherent in using the mouse and keyboard - there’s no haptic feedback possible. If only it was VR...
Once I got wise to using the simulator in the way the designers intended it to be used, I was far more successful. Having finally opened the door to more complexity by learning how to actually catch a fish, I began to learn how to customize my fishing rig for other types of fish, which required the use of the not-overly-intuitive UI.
After a few minutes of ineffective fiddling around, during which I managed to buy 31 flies I didn’t really need, I started looking for other types of fish to catch. I had been working with artificial lures, but I really wanted to try fishing with live bait and a bobber (float). That too worked out well, although it is very hard to see the bobber even with the little magnifier screen provided, but it was not economical. In the strangely inflated in-game economy, a live worm costs $9. It often times catches a fish worth only $6. I didn’t reach early retirement by spending $9 for a $6 item, so it was back to lures. Sure, they cost over $30 each, but they catch bigger fish.
I soon tired of being stuck on the side of the lake and decided I wanted a boat. I found one, but I couldn’t use it due to a lack of qualifications. I hardly ever pay attention to experience points and level-ups until I need them, and wanting a boat was just the ticket to force me into looking at the Skills tree. I had gathered up enough points by that time to qualify be to fish from a boat, but I ultimately gave up on it. I was catching the same little fish that I was catching while standing on the pier.
At this point in my simulated fishing career, I am back to fishing on the beginner’s lake where I can make money faster - that will allow me to buy licenses at some of the higher-end lakes. That in turn will hopefully lad to catching bigger and more lucrative fish.
There is a lot to like about the Ultimate Fishing Simulator. It does an excellent job of providing a realistic fishing experience. It takes into account the applicability of your tackle selections and your technique in using them rather than just randomly awarding you with a fish now and then, it is attractive to look at, and the actual reeling in of a fish is non-trivial as the fish put up quite a fight at times. They are also adept at using rocks and other obstructions to break your fishing line. It can be every bit as frustrating as real fishing in cases where you can actually see the fish ignoring the bait floating an inch in front of them.
There are a couple of problems, though. The first (and most egregious) is that the in-game menus (lists, to be precise) are subject to extraneous inputs from other controllers you may have attached to your PC. I am a simmer - I have flight sticks, steering wheels, rudder pedals - you get the point: I hate having to disconnect all that stuff just to be able to select a lure from a list without it scrolling out of sight.
The other minor complaints have to do with fishing from a boat: the boat in the sim will not steer if you aren’t also using the ‘forward’ control - a real boat will still turn as long as it is moving through the water even if the motor is not driving it forward. Also, while moving the boat you get a type of radar/sonar display that depicts fish as little dots, and has a 360° view. This is not how a fish finder works - a decent simulation of how an actual fish finder works would be a huge advantage for someone like me and a welcome addition for experienced fishermen.
It would also be nice to see more realistic dollar values in the store, although that is probably just my provincialism talking - it is a form of arrogance to assume that the “$” symbol is in reference to US dollars. Finally, just a bit more of a visual indication of a fish nibbling at your bait would be welcome.
Although it has a few quirks, the Ultimate Fishing Simulator does provide a believable environment paired with what seems to be a very accurate fishing simulation. While you have to play by a few rules and use defined reeling methods, there is still a good amount of personal technique required to land a fish. They put up a good fight and can be very devious in their fight to break your line - even the smallest of the fish can escape if you aren’t careful.
Just like it ought to be.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been fascinated with video games and computers for as long as I can remember. It was always a treat to get dragged to the mall with my parents because I'd get to play for a few minutes on the Atari 2600. I partially blame Asteroids, the crack cocaine of arcade games, for my low GPA in college which eventually led me to temporarily ditch academics and join the USAF to "see the world." The rest of the blame goes to my passion for all things aviation, and the opportunity to work on work on the truly awesome SR-71 Blackbird sealed the deal.
My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 that I bought in 1977 when they first came out. At that time you had to order them through a Radio Shack store - Tandy didn't think they'd sell enough to justify stocking them in the retail stores. My favorite game then was the SubLogic Flight Simulator, which was the great Grandaddy of the Microsoft flight sims.
While I was in the military, I bought a Commodore 64. From there I moved on up through the PC line, always buying just enough machine to support the latest version of the flight sims. I never really paid much attention to consoles until the Dreamcast came out. I now have an Xbox for my console games, and a 1ghz Celeron with a GeForce4 for graphics. Being married and having a very expensive toy (my airplane) means I don't get to spend a lot of money on the lastest/greatest PC and console hardware.
My interests these days are primarily auto racing and flying sims on the PC. I'm too old and slow to do well at the FPS twitchers or fighting games, but I do enjoy online Rainbow 6 or the like now and then, although I had to give up Americas Army due to my complete inability to discern friend from foe. I have the Xbox mostly to play games with my daughter and for the sports games.